Preface: I just uncovered a cache of old short stories, essays and poems that I wrote back in 2004, with the intention of eventually putting them out as a book. Mind you, eBooks were not yet even on the horizon, nor was self-publishing really. I’m going to start posting some of them every so often here. In the back of my mind I’m hoping this kickstarts my creative processes so I can start writing another book, whether it’s a Bloodbound book or not.
The first entry in what I’m callingDigital Atticis a recounting of the car accident my grandmother and I got into the week before I graduated high school.
The spider started it all. It was that stupid spider’s fault. If it hadn’t been so threatening, so close to my arm, nothing would have happened.
But it had to be there. Green fangs glaring at me in a bright May morning sunrise.
The clock on my laptop screen read 9:30am sharp.
My grandmother told me to unbuckle and whip the seatbelt out the car window. That way, the spider could be out of my way and—
–The car made a horrendous scraping noise as the tires veered off of gravel and pavement and into the uneven terrain of grassy slopes.
I felt like I had been slammed against a steel wall. The hull of the car shook and juddered as it scraped up against a telephone pole. I don’t remember closing my eyes at any point. My eyes just stared out into the windshield. All I saw was a blur of dust. The smell of fresh green grass and heated metal filled my nose… a smell that would stay with me for days on end.
As I stared, I watched the glass before me turn into a maze of zigzagged lines. The mass was instantly a matter of inches away from my forehead, as the hood of the car ripped backwards and into the passenger area.
One second and five sharp breaths later, silence. Everything stood still. I felt tilted, slanted to one angle. I was still staring up at the glass windshield, now crumpled and at an odder angle, pointed inwards like a razor-sharp wedge.
“Are you okay?” I instantly asked of my grandmother. I was okay, I was sure. I felt no pain.
My stare never wavered from the glass. I remember rolling my eyes, as if hearing the answer ‘no’ was an incorrect response to a Weakest Link question.
Still, I stuck my head out of my open window. I yelled for help twice. At the top of my lungs. The silence had unfortunately spread to the outside world, as there were no cars, no inquiries from neighbors who were supposed to have seen the accident.
“I think my arm is broken,” said my grandmother. “Can you open your door?”
I immediately began to work on my door. Fortunately, my subconscious prevented me from ever looking at my grandmother. If I had seen her, I would have seen that woman; the woman who raised me from birth, the woman who I cared deeply for—with her face busted open, bleeding heavily and already bruising violently.
The door budged, but only by an inch or two. As I looked to the left, I noticed two things blocking the door from opening. My side of the car was lying parallel to the upward slope of the culvert we were now lying helpless in. Second, a fencepost of the barbed wire fence we had just sailed through was propped up against my door, like some cruel joke Fate had planned for us.
“See if you can crawl out the window,” said my poor, battered grandmother,” and get us some help.”
Obediently, I slowly inched out of my seat, and I climbed out my open door window, narrowly missing being sliced open by the barbed wire just inches from my neck. My foot landed solidly on ground, and I was able to pull the rest of my body out. I looked back into the car only briefly. I was able to see my laptop… my brand new laptop, bent at a forty-five degree angle and wedged in between the dashboard and the shattered windshield.
As if driven by instinct, I ran out into the open road, and sprinted down a gravel road to the nearest house. I remember quashing several sobs, and repeating a chant of “Good God, this is bad; Oh my God, this is bad.”
I arrived at the screen door of a brick house, and repeatedly banged on the door and ringing the doorbell. I was shouting at the empty house as if I were on an HBO special.
“ANSWER THE FUCKING DOOR, YOU FUCKING DICKHEADS!’
My subconscious also has an auto-polite feature, and I remember apologizing to the dog staring quizzically at me in his pen. I trudged back up the gravel road.
The silence surrounding me was getting on my nerves. Still no cars. “Please, God, please make someone come quick.”
Within seconds, I could hear a familiar sound. A pickup engine, racing down the road at an above-average speed.
I flagged Josh down; he stopped in the middle of the road just past our totaled Oldsmobile.
“What’s going on?” asked Josh. He stepped out of the truck.
“We wrecked,” was my reply. “She’s stuck inside.”
Josh handed me his cell phone, and I dialed 911 while he stepped carefully into the culvert to check on my grandmother.
It was at this point that I noticed I was bleeding. The two smallest fingers on my right hand were coated in a thick stream of red. Once I saw that, the pain flooded through my body almost immediately. The small gash on my forehead… the openings on those fingers… the slices across my left kneecap. I was finally able to connect to the emergency services, and they promised to be there within five minutes.
I also called my mother. I knew she needed to be here. She would never forgive herself if she couldn’t be here to see her mother safely into an ambulance. More to the point, I would never forgive myself if I forgot to call her. “We had a bit of an accident,” I said. “On 433. Past the Noack Café. We’re about two miles from Thrall.”
Another car had since stopped. “I’m so-and-so from Someplace I Never Heard Of. I’m specialized in elderly care services,” the woman said as she exchanged spots with Josh in the culvert.
I made a promise to myself several years earlier that if I were ever in a situation like this, I would at least have a small sense of humor. I turned to Josh and said, “It’s a good thing my grandmother can’t hear her. I don’t think she would’ve appreciated being referred to as ‘elderly.’”
Melissa’s red car approached a few seconds later, and I asked her to inform the high school of what happened. I explained to her what happened as best I could. The poor girl looked more frightened than I’m sure I did. If anything, I think this is because I was now dribbling blood down my leg and off my fingers, which were both thickening more and turning black.
No sooner had Melissa drove off than I could hear sirens. I calmed down only for a few seconds, with my heartbeat returning to a fast pace as the lights and sirens sailed down the wrong road. Josh and I both exchanged a glance, which we both knew meant, “Oh shit.”
His phone soon rang, and I had to explain for a second time our location. Josh offered to drive down to the Café so that he could flag them down the right road. I was never more glad to see his truck disappear at 120 miles per hour than at that moment.
I turned to face my grandmother, still trapped inside the car. By this point we were alone again. The eldercare woman had since driven away without a word. I still did not see her cuts or bruises. I was more intent on looking at what now remained of the front of the car. It was as if the front of the car had been split in half, with her half of the car either flattened into a pancake in front, or wrapped around the telephone pole we had hit earlier.
I could only say one thing, the only thing worth saying at such a time.
“I love you.”
“I love you too, sweetie.”
I tried not to think of her again as this helpless creature in pain. I have a thing about women, especially with pretty names, hurt or bleeding. I remember specifically crying my eyes out at the TV movie “Night of the Twisters,” because an old, white-haired woman named Belle was bleeding from the forehead. Women named Belle do not deserve to be in pain, I had concluded. Now, I could add that women named Doris shouldn’t be trapped inside wrecked cars, with an arm broken and bruising rapidly.
Josh sped back to us, followed by the ambulance and the Williamson County Sheriff’s cruiser. He was followed by my mother and her boyfriend in their blue pickup. The next half hour or so was a rush of action. My mother hugged me. She was shivering in nervousness. While one EMT went to check out my grandmother, another had me sit on the ambulance bumper, checking my vitals. She ordered Josh to hold my head still. I had complained about my shoulder hurting.
I was put in a neck brace. As I stared unwillingly directly ahead of me, I watched the EMT talk into her walkie-talkie. She ordered the Jaws. She also requested the helicopter. Great, I thought, we’re getting the full treatment.
Within a few more minutes, the fire truck had arrived with the Jaws, which were really just a high-powered series of saws. They began cutting open my side of the car in order to reach my grandmother. Again, Fate proved helpful, as I was no longer able to view this traumatic scene. I was being loaded onto a stretcher and strapped onto a board. Josh was holding my head the whole time.
Again, my sense of humor kicked in, as I remarked “I had always wanted to be on ‘ER,’ not in one.” Later, Josh noticed that I had shut my right eye awkwardly. It took him a bit to notice that the wind had been blowing up through his shirt, allowing me a bird’s eye view, shall we say, of his chest. “You coulda told me,” he said, to which I replied, “I know.”
I was then loaded into the chopper, which had landed only moments before. I had lost all sense of direction: where had the chopper landed? Which way were they rolling me? Another plus of being strapped in is that I couldn’t see my grandmother’s face as they rolled her in beside me. But I was able to put my hand beside hers.
I had learned that both of her arms had been broken, her left one shattered so violently that the elbow had ripped open. I made it through with only a shoulder contusion, in addition to the cuts and scrapes I had sustained earlier.
The car and the laptop were gone, I knew. There would be tickets and bills to pay, I knew, especially since I was unbuckled and not insured.
But the important thing is that my grandmother and I had survived. We were alive.
The helicopter lifted off for our ride to the hospital.
The time was 10:27am.